Paul taught us about the union of Jewish and Gentile believers in the church (2:11-22). When you read Eph. 3:1 up to Eph. 3:14, it becomes clear that Paul was about to express a prayer in behalf of
the believers. However, he stopped and proceed to talk about “the mystery”. Here he explained this
mystery and his responsibility to dispense it. Let’s take a look at it for now.
I. The Prisoner (Eph. 3:1)
A. For this cause… The words ‘for this cause’, connect the previous two chapters with
what Paul is about to say. Paul’s cause was the great salvation truths of chapters one
and two. Paul takes those great truths and builds upon them, instructing the
Ephesians concerning God’s plan for the Church from ages past.
B. Three times in Ephesians, Paul refers to himself as a prisoner (Eph. 3:1, 4:1, and in
6:20 in bonds). Paul wrote this letter while he was imprisoned in Rome. However,
take note of how Paul viewed his status as a prisoner. Though in jail for 5 years (2 in
Caesarea and 3 in Rome), Paul did not view himself a prisoner of the Jews, Rome, or
Caesar. He called himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ. A prisoner is one who has been
captured and detained. Such was the case with Paul. His heart had been captured by
Illustration 1: Converted Convict
A convict, dying of a loathsome disease in the Arizona State Prison at Florence, was given a New
Testament one day by a visiting prison worker. He started to read it and became so convicted of sin
that he hurled it the length of the cell. When the Book landed on the floor, it fell open to the First
Epistle of John. A verse boldly outlined in red caught the angry convict’s eye. He stooped down to
look at it, and this is what he read: “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” That message brought him to his knees, crying out to God for forgiveness, for cleansing, for healing. He became a new man in Christ Jesus. He started a Bible class for the convicts, and in time secured an unconditional pardon from the Governor of Arizona. The governor’s pardon freed him from prison, but the pardon the Lord gave brought him purity of spirit, soul, and body, and through him brought many others into the Kingdom. Illustrations of Bible Truths.
II. The Mystery (Eph. 3:2-6)
A. Paul explains the mystery – the Gentile believers are now united to the Jewish
believers in one body, the church (Eph. 3:6). It is called a mystery because it was
B. Paul was not only a “prisoner” because of “the mystery,” but he was also a
“minister.” God gave him a “dispensation” (stewardship) that he might go to the
Gentiles, not only with the Good News of salvation through Christ but also with the
message that Jews and Gentiles are now one in Christ. The word dispensation comes
from two Greek words: oikos, meaning “house” and nomos, meaning “law.” Our
English word “economy” is derived directly from the Greek oikonomia , “the law of
the house,” or “a stewardship, a management” God has different ways of managing
His program from age to age, and these different “stewardships” Bible students
sometimes call “dispensations” (Eph. 1:9-10).
C. God made Paul a steward of “the mystery” with the responsibility of sharing it to the
Gentiles. It was not enough simply to win them to Christ and form them into local
assemblies. He was also to teach them their wonderful position in Christ as
members of the body, sharing God’s grace equally with the Jews. This truth had not
been revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures. It was revealed to the New
Testament Apostles and prophets (see Eph. 4:11) by the Holy Spirit. God revealed it
personally to Paul, and it was his responsibility to share it with the Gentile
Christians. This was the “dispensation” – or stewardship – that God had given him.
And because Paul was a faithful steward, he was now a prisoner in Rome. Like
Joseph in the Old Testament, his faithful stewardship resulted in false arrest and
imprisonment. But, in the end, it brought great glory to God and salvation to Jews
D. That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs.” (Eph. 3:6). Guided and illumined by the
Spirit the Ephesians understood “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow
members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through
E. “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we
suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:16, 17).
F. Thus, the mystery is not something mysterious, but is a sacred secret hidden in Ages
past but now revealed. This is made possible through the gospel: believing Jews and
Gentiles are in one body, the church.
III. The Preaching (Eph. 3: 7-12)
A. Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto
me by the effectual working of his power. (Ephesians 3:7) Paul realized that he was
made a minister. Paul didn’t just decide one day to serve in the ministry. He was a
God made minister. The word minister comes from the word “diakonos” and refers
to a servant. It describes one who waits on and serves another. Paul wasn’t a
somebody, he was a servant.
B. Paul was sent to preach among the Gentiles. (3:8) Preaching is God’s method of
propagating the gospel. The command Preach the word… (2 Timothy 4:2) stands at
the forefront. We Baptists believe in the primacy of preaching—that preaching is
supreme. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how
shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear
without a preacher? (Romans 10:14) Paul took his duty seriously. A study of Paul’s
life reveals that he was faithful to his call of spreading the gospel of Christ.
C. Paul’s work was according to the gift of the grace of God. Preaching and teaching
were Paul’s spiritual gifts. Grace is unmerited favor. Paul didn’t have any innate
qualities that made him a candidate for the ministry. It was just the opposite. He
was hostile toward Christ and His people. But God’s grace made the difference.
God took Paul and made him a minister by the effectual working of his power. It
wasn’t Paul’s education. It wasn’t his experience. It had nothing to do with his
expertise. It was solely by the enabling of God. The operating power for the ministry
comes from the omnipotent God of Heaven. Nothing else will do. Thank God for
education, experience and expertise. But worldly professions have all of this. The
difference is the power of God. If we are going to be servants who please the
Master, we must have His enabling.
D. “Fellowship of the mystery”: The office or stewardship of this mystery. It was
demonstrated in Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles. With the eyes of the heart
“being enlightened” (Eph. 1:18) one can then turn the light for others to see (see
E. “Hath been hid in God…” God from the beginning purposed to save the Gentiles by
the gospel, but kept it hidden. That is, God did not their reveal the “unsearchable”
or “inexhaustible” riches of His purpose.
Illustration 2: Great saints are lowly
When Mr. Morrison, the Missionary to China, needed an assistant, Mr. Milne, afterwards the
celebrated Dr. Milne, offered himself. As soon as the examiners had talked with him, they saw that
his heart was right enough, but he had a clownish look, and a dullness of expression; when the youth was gone out of the room, one of the examiners said, “He is scarcely a proper person to send, we need a man of greater intellect.”
At last, they agreed that they had better send him as a servant, the servant of the mission, to do the
work of the household, clean Dr. Morrison’s boots, and such like things, I suppose. So Dr. Phillip was requested to communicate this to him, and he told him that the committee did not feel he was
qualified to go as a missionary, would he mind going as a servant?
The youth’s eye sparkled, and he said, “It is too much honour for me even if I am but a hewer of
wood and a drawer of water for the Lord my God.” And thus, he went forth, and afterwards, as you
know, became one of the most useful of missionaries.
How many a man would have said, “Gentle, men, I did not come for that; this is treating me with a
want of respect. Surely you do not know who I am, or else you would not suppose for a moment that I would be willing to be a mere drudge and menial servant!”
They know not the Lord who only desire His service for the honour which it brings; but they have
their hearts right before Him who want no honour for themselves, but only desire that His name
may be extolled above the hills, that He may be made famous. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
— Biblical Illustrator
IV. Paul’s Heavenly Purpose (Eph. 3:10-13)
A. “To the intent that now…” (Eph. 3:10): It is God’s purpose to have the “mystery”, so
long hidden but now revealed, preached to show the much-variegated or many colored
wisdom of God to the world. This was “made known”
1. To the Gentiles by preaching the gospel.
2. To Jews. This is implied by the “all” of Eph. 3:9.
3. To “principalities and powers in heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
B. “By the church”: The Church is the Body of Christ and has been left in the world to
make the unseen, indwelling Christ known to men so that they “all” might be drawn
to Him (2 Pet. 3:9). This is the mission of the church. Let the Church be the Church!
This is the “eternal purpose” (verse 11) of God. “Through the ages one eternal
purpose runs” (Eph. 1:11).
C. “In whom we have boldness…” (Eph. 3:12): Jew and Gentile alike may come boldly
through Christ to God. To show this “mystery” to the Gentiles Paul suffered much
for Christ. He was now in prison. Yet he did not want the Ephesians to become
discouraged, or give in to evil because of his tribulations for them. His work was not
ended. Such suffering indicated he had a great cause to present to the world (verse
13). That Jew and Gentile form together the Body of Christ, and to be with Christ
united forever in the closest possible bonds, presents the highest celestial glory. In
Ephesians 3:6-13 we have reached the very highest pinnacle of bliss and glory. It is
no wonder that the apostle now “bows his knees” to pray for them.
The mystery that the Apostle was telling is the mystery of the church. The Gentile
believers are now united to the Jewish believers in one body, the church (Eph. 3:6). It is
called a mystery because it was once hidden. It was now revealed through the preaching
of the gospel in which Paul was made a minister. The question now is, are you a part of